Morocco Culture & Trekking – Delight of Discovery

A recent client compliment from their Moroccan Journey reminded me of my own exotic adventure too many years ago and has rekindled setting a date for a visit next year.

“Gwen – Thanks for arranging our incredible trip in Morocco.  The hotel you proposed in Marrakech, in the heart of the Medina (the older city), was perfect for us.  We were in the middle of everything, from snake charmers to the bustling shops, but able to escape to the calm of the hotel rooftop to see it all from distance. Also, the guide for our trek days in the Atlas Mountains was amazing. A local of the Berber community, he seemed to know every trail, mule driver and village.  Fantastic.”  John R.

These clients stayed in the cultural mix of the medina, the old walled city, which we feel adds to the experience, as you can walk everywhere. Then whisked out to the high Atlas Mountains for trekking and a luxurious stay in a hotel Berber Tent, where you can soak up the views on your private deck equipped with sun loungers and space for outdoor dining, some suites have their own Jacuzzi. After a day of mule trekking through Berber villages, a jacuzzi is the perfect reward!

Morocco is a land of legends and fascination, despite its closeness to the European continent, its soul lies in the cradle of its North African coastal home. A historically independent nation, it has always been a multi-cultural historic crossroad for trade, ideas and migratory people.

Snake charmer on the famed square.

Shaded respite in the gardens of a private cooking school.

An awe inspiring country with a strong sense of culture. Open air vendors will tempt you with their colorful wares, snake charmers do exist on the famed Jamaa el Fna  Square, in the medina quarter. Marrakech’s Marjorelle Garden is a must visit, designed in 1920 by famed French painter Jacques Majorelle. Historic museums, surfing on the coast and trekking in the great Atlas Mountains are only a few of the exotic and authentic offerings.

Local woman making breakfast bread.

Moroccan cuisine has gained massive followers among food connoisseurs. Staples of most meals include lamb, fish and fowl, including pigeon, which is considered a delicacy when baked in pastry, the b’stillah is a national favorite. Vegetables including tomatoes, eggplants and onions are typically served with the well known and loved couscous. Bread, or Khob, as in many Middle Eastern and North African countries is considered a deep cultural symbol as well as a daily staple. Crusty, round flattish loaves are often baked on a girdle over an open flame or earthen ovens.  Mint tea is served everywhere in dainty tulip glasses. An ancient Moroccan proverb:  “manage with bread and butter until God sends honey”.

Morocco  is an enchanting exotic location and has been a favorite of our clients for many many years- we can add authentic tents in the desert, camels to climb the dunes…let your imagination be boundless! http://www.gwenbooks.com/2015/10/journey-moroccan-odyssey/

Can we tempt you to discover the rich emblematic and colorful nation in Spring or Fall?

The Whitby – Brits Bridge New York

Good design keeps a city on the go – Hotel briefing New York City. If you are a fan, and who isn’t, of the quirky yet tasteful Firmdale properties, then you will love this new iteration in midtown New York. What you say, a quirky midtown hotel, among the respected old world and very proper and posh midtown business hotels – yes, it is true! With that infamous TTower lined with protestors at all hours of the day, Midtown needs a dash of fun, spicy and quirky! The Whitby is it, a smashing colorful iconic property with spectacular skyscraper views from the private terraces!

Whitby Hotel New York Lobby

Firmdale now has two iconic properties in New York, I frequently recommend and stay at their Crosby Street Hotel set back off the Soho cobblestone streets and I always recommend it to my client families…teens can wander and shop, plus endless dining nearby. Firmdale Hotel Group is owned by Kit and Tim Kemp, their roster of properties includes eight stylish hotels in London. An interior designer, Kit Kemp creates all the interiors for their properties.

The latest baby is The Whitby situated in the heart of upper midtown Manhattan on West 56th Street near 5th Avenue. Passing through the doors, you enter the cozy lobby, oozing English hospitality. Charm is a touchstone Firmdale characteristic and they have it down to a science, a charming idiosyncratic science. The rooms are similar in style to their other properties in the sense that Kit Kemp is a master of pattern mixing with a myriad of colors, yet it looks sensational. They also installed the trademarked steel Crittall windows, enormous floor to ceiling windows unlike any other hotel windows, allowing brilliant light to flood the room.

My comfy Suite Whitby Hotel New York. I did mention kicking off my shoes the moment I arrive!

Whitby Hotel New York Bath

My first impulse in a Firmdale property, is to kick off my shoes and plop into one of the plush chairs or hop atop the extremely comfy sleep inducing Beautyrest bed, layered in colorful multiple patterns, sensory overload perhaps, but eclectic design with immense style. The rooms envelope you, blissful fun, distinctive style combined with luxury and excellent amenities, a gallery in a sense. The bathrooms are quite large; and most have massive stand-alone silver soaking tubs and oversize double sinks. Small well-lit walk in closets eliminate your travel detritus and contain a well stocked mini bar.

Whitby Hotel New York Suite

Whitby Hotel New York, my corner terrace with Spectacular Skyscraper Views!

The Whitby Hotel is a celebration of contemporary art and design. There are 86 individually designed bedrooms and suites, each with floor to ceiling windows, many with a private terrace and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. My June stay was blessed by gorgeous weather allowing me to utilize my terrace – yes, a lovely corner terrace! I had promised dinner to the grown daughter of a dear high school friend, we were to meet uptown after my meeting – a quick text to her with an invitation to join me on my terrace for dinner, we would pop open that lovely bottle of Champagne and toast success to the Whitby. One of my most brilliant evenings in New York, delicious dinner delivered, Champagne bubbles and the moon rose above the skyline, we chatted until the wee hours on the corner terrace.

The Whitby is just two blocks from Central Park and on the doorstep of some of New York’s leading restaurants, galleries and museums, including MoMA, two blocks away. It is surrounded by world-class shopping, luxury designer boutiques and Broadway is just a short walk away.

Whitby Hotel Tea Room New York

There is also The Whitby Bar and Restaurant, an Orangery, which is light-filled and has more of a formal restaurant atmosphere, the book-lined Drawing Room, private outdoor terrace as well as three beautifully designed private event rooms, a 130 seat state-of-the-art cinema and a fully equipped gym.

Traditionally, Firmdale properties are designed in the style of a stately English country home, I realize those are opposite terms; the sitting rooms and libraries for guests are designed in the style of ‘to the manner born’, however, the décor is cozy and comfy and very inviting. Imagine a private guest space i.e the drawing room with an honor bar, merely write down on the pad that you were the one who quaffed the Perrier chilling in the ice-bucket…Brits who appreciate common courtesy and expect honor.

The Whitby – another regal gem in the crown of the Firmdale Properties, distinctly British in the midst of midtown Manhattan.Character and Charm are integral to the Five Star Service

Love The Whitby!